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Exhibition to reveal Alexandra Palace’s little-known role in First World War

11:00 17 August 2014

An exhibition exploring Alexandra Palace’s little-known role in the First World War will open almost exactly 100 years to the day that the first Belgium refugees walked into the Great Hall.

The year-long exhibition will look at the Palace’s time during World War One - first as a refugee centre for displaced Belgian citizens and later as an internment camp for German and Austrian ‘enemy aliens’.

The year-long exhibition will look at the Palace’s time during World War One - first as a refugee centre for displaced Belgian citizens and later as an internment camp for German and Austrian ‘enemy aliens’.

The first refugees arrived at the Palace on September 14, 1914, to be sorted before they were moved to permanent accommodation around the country.

The Palace was then turned into an internment camp with prisoners first arriving from May 14, 1915, and remained until June 1919. Eventually, 3,000 people would be kept prisoner at Alexandra Palace - although, as an article on the British Association of Local History notes, it “was reportedly ‘considered as the best non-paying camp in England’”.

Their story will be brought to life using an archive of contemporary paintings of internees in the Park and Palace, documents, photographs and artefacts, brought back together from across the UK for the first time since the war.

Ally Pally chief executive Duncan Wilson said “as a story of the consequences of war”, the exhibition “has great resonance and impact today”.

“With so many eyes looking to Europe to commemorate the Great War in this centenary year, we wanted to tell the little known story of war on the home front at, Alexandra Palace,” he continued.

“The exhibition will open to the public on September 22, 100 years after the first Belgian refugees began to arrive at the Palace having fled following the German invasion of their homeland.

“We hope this exhibition will demonstrate the profound impact the thousands of refugees and prisoners at Alexandra Palace during that time had on the local community.”

The exhibition, which received £59,400 in financial backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in September 2013, has been created with the help of Middlesex University, the Imperial War Museum and Bruce Castle Museum.

Middlesex University has developed a short film as part of the exhibition which will tell the story of the internees imprisoned at Alexandra Palace, using paintings, original photographs and film footage and the words of the prisoners themselves from memoirs and letters.

The university has also created a digital app for smart phone users, which will take pupils and visitors back in time at a number of the Park and Palace’s historically significant locations and will visually display what internees did there using digital imagery and descriptions

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